TAPIF Tip/Lectrice Lesson: How to Find Housing in France

Finding an apartment in France is perhaps one of the most daunting tasks known to TAPIF assistants and lecteurs. It is something that is completely out of our control until we arrive, but something we need to do before we can do anything else (open a bank account, register with the French government, etc.)

There is a lot of conflicting advice in regards to finding housing in France. Some blogs will tell you to do it straight away; others will tell you to wait until you arrive in France. I agree with the ladder– do not invest too much time looking at housing until you arrive in France. It is much better to see your options in person, meet your roommates or potential landlord, get a feel for the neighborhood during both the day and nighttime hours, and not wire a lump sum of cash to someone you’ve never met. Not to mention, the chances are that without a French phone number, you won’t get very far.

However, if you want to get ahead in your search during the summer months, here’s what I recommend:

  1. Use the “Who you know Option.” Ask your prof référent if the school provides housing for you, or if they have the contact information for the past assistant. Perhaps they have a lead that way. Do you know anyone from study abroad? Perhaps they’ll know of something. (I have a few great contacts for my readers who ask!)
  2. Figure out where you’ll stay in the meantime. I know many assistants who were able to stay with their teachers for free until they found a place to live. In my case, I have stayed in a hostel, with a family friends, and on the couch of a fellow lecteur. However, if your school is not responsive or you do not know anyone in France, simply book yourself into a hostel or an AirBnb (click my link for an 18€ reduction off your first stay!) for a few days.
  3. Start familiarizing yourself with Housing Websites. There are many different websites one can use to find housing in France, although the 0ne I recommend is:
  • Le Bon Coin: For all of my accommodations in France (with the exception of Lille) I have used this website to find both roommates and flats, as well as to sell some things of my own (it’s a better, less sketchy version of Craig’s List).

The TAPIF organization also sends out a huge e-document at the beginning of summer with about twenty other housing websites.

4. Make a list of requirements and “must-haves.” While looking for a place to live, there were a few requirements I was searching for:

  • Furnished (meublé and équipé)
  • A washing machine
  • Central Location- In the city center, close to a bus/tram/metro line, and in a safe neighborhood
  • Non-smoking
  • My own room
  • Something that qualified for CAF (APL)

5. Familiarize yourself with French Housing Vocabulary. Here are some essentials:

  • le logement- housing
  • le bail- the lease
  • le loyer- the rent
  • colocation- housing for rent with roommates
  • locataire- the renter
  • propriétaire- the landlord
  • meublé/pas meublé- furnished/not furnished
  • les charges- utilities
  • hors charges- without charges
  • charges compris dans le loyer- utilities
  • EDF- Electricity
  • un clic-clac- futon
  • un mini-four- toaster oven, mini-oven
  • les plaques de cuisson/plaques électriques- stovetop burners/a hot plate
  • la caution- deposit
  • la quittance de loyer- proof of renting agreement
  • Taxe d’habitation-  housing tax paid at the end of the year
  • CAF = Caisse d’allocations familiales
  • RIB (pronounced reeb)- relevé d’identité bancaire, or your bank account details

Once you’re in France, start looking at listings online and setting up appointments. Go visit the apartments in person!

General Tips / Advice:

  • Don’t assume you are going to get CAF right away, if at all. From what I’ve read, many assistants have had more and more difficulties with receiving CAF. France has reduced the payments a lot. If you cannot afford your apartment/flat without CAF, you may just need to keep looking.
  • Ask questions- as foreigners we are vulnerable. Know your rights and stand up for yourself. Know the expectations in regards to a security deposit, renter’s insurance, the Taxe d’habitation, utilities / rent, roommates, etc.
  • Some French landlords require a garant, or someone who is willing to co-sign your lease in case you do not pay the rent. I recommend asking if your arrêt de nomination or university contract will work as proof of income (it usually does). Otherwise, either try searching for apartments which do not require garants, or, if you know someone in France, maybe ask them if they will be your garant. 
  • If you’re unsure of your neighborhood, come back at visit at night.
  • Listen to your gut. Don’t feel like you have to settle, and do not be afraid to move if it does not work out. If and when you need to move out, the law in France is one month’s notice for a furnished place, and a three month’s notice for an unfurnished place.
  • Overall, advocate for yourself. Be persistent. But if you find something good, grab it!

La Taxe d’habitation

The Taxe d’Habitation is a property tax which all residents of France are required to pay each year. As an assistant or lecteur you will most likely be required to pay this tax. The tax is based on where you were living on January 1st of that year (so, even if you move on January 2nd, you will be required to pay for your housing based on your January 1st residence.) Usually, the tax is billed in October and is paid in November– so many of you will have already left France. So, if that is the case, keep your bank account open!

If you live in a colocation, you are required to split the tax amongst your roommates. The best thing to do would be to inquire about specific details regarding the tax with your landlords and roommates before signing a lease. If your landlords are organized, there may already be a process in place.

Just DO NOT be that asshole who tries to get out of paying or refuses to pay. This works both ways– don’t live with people you do not trust completely, or think will flake out on you when it comes time to pay up.

My experiences:

Toulon- Assistant Year

When I first arrived in Toulon, I ended up initially looking at three different places: one apartment I found and scheduled on my own, one apartment with two other assistants, and a studio that my host mom found for me via her sister’s friends. I narrowed it down and ended up going with the studio. However, I chose price over comfort and found myself miserable for the first couple of months. So, come January I moved into a new apartment in the center of Toulon with French and foreign roommates until the end of my contract.

First Toulon Studio: September-December 2013


Second Toulon Apartment: January-April 2014




For advice on what to do if you need to move, check out my post here.

Valenciennes- Lectrice Year 1

As I was literally relocating to the other side of France, I moved all of my things home and started afresh in August. I found and I moved into an awesome house in the center of town with two other roommates; one moved out in January (and later screwed us over with the tax d’habitation), but I absolutely loved living in this house.

House in Valenciennes: September 2014-May 2015






To see my house in Valenciennes, check out my post here.

Lille- Lectrice Year 2

My easiest move was from Valenciennes to Lille. I simply packed my things up on the train and moved into a house with my friends in Lille. I took over another colleague’s lease and have been there ever since.

House in Lille: June 2015-Present






25 thoughts on “TAPIF Tip/Lectrice Lesson: How to Find Housing in France

  1. Hi Dana! I’m struggling to find housing in Lille – have you any suggestions as leboncoin didn’t work for you in Lille?


  2. Hi, Dana! Your blog as been my Hail Mary throughout all my preparations for my first TAPIF excursion. I understand that most people advise waiting until your arrival in France to begin looking for housing, but I would feel so much more comfortable to have this taken care of before I arrive (I’ve also spoken to a couple people that have done this in the past, too). My question is how to go about properly emailing landlords, in a way that is comprehensive, informative but also does not give me away as a total noob. Ha! Any and all advice you can offer on this front would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you, Dana!

    1. Hi Olivia, thank you for your kind comment! I’d say to google a formal format for flat inquiries, put in a good subject and make sure you mention your stable contract and financial stability. Good luck!

  3. Hi Dana, I am binging on all your blogs because it is giving me a lot of comfort! I got accepted to Lycée Massena, Nice and i was wondering if you were aware of any reasonable apartments or maybe advice on how i could get around to finding a place? I have contact my school but they do not offer accommodation. Additionally i have read that Nice, although a beautiful city is really expensive so would you suggest renting in a nearby city and travel? Also do you have any ideas as to which nearby city may be cheaper to buy things to survive because i plan on packing light and buying most things there including winter clothes.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated

    1. Hi Esther, thanks for your kind comment! If you do a search on my blog you’ll find a post dedicated to housing, which answers many of your questions! I would personally say live in the big city and near the action– it can get lonely in Nice if you don’t know anyone! As for shopping, I’m not sure about that- perhaps check out the FB group: Surviving in France on a budget. The members there may have suggestions. Good luck! -Dana

  4. Hi Dana!

    I love your blog and have found it so helpful. I was wondering if you recommend trying to find housing first or trying to open a bank account first. In your experience, are landlords more lenient about needing the RIB right away? If not, I’m not sure how to go about opening a bank account without a place to live–I’ve heard some people put their schools down as their address but need some kind of documentation. I’m planning to live in Rouen and my school will be an hour away by car, so I don’t know that I could easily have my prof referent vouch for me/provide proof that I live with her or at the school. Any advice?

    Thank you,


    1. Hi, ah yes this is such a catch 22. I believe you can find a landlord/lady who is willing to accept cash for the deposit / first month- just explain to him or her the situation and have your work contract copied and on hand. Otherwise open a bank account using your school address and then change it when you find more permanent housing 🙂 good luck!

  5. Hi Dana! Long-time reader, third-time poster. I will be moving to Lyon for an internship and wanted to know whether you could provide any leads and/or contacts to start off my housing hunt. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading! I recommend starting with leboncoin. Search safe neighborhoods and check out potential flats. Go back to the neighborhood at night to see if it has a different feel. Good luck!

  6. This is a great post. I do have a question though, how does CAF exactly work? and what is the process to apply for such benefits? I am very interested in learning about this since I will be going to Paris for my TAPIF project.

    Thank you in advance for any help!

    1. Just got an email notification for this, so I thought I’d contribute as well 🙂

      I would apply as soon as you get stable housing, as the CAF is NOT retroactive. It may take a few months for your application to process, but you will receive aid starting the month you sent in your application. For example, I sent my application in at the beginning of last November, and received aid for the months of November, December, and January at the end of January, and then each month that followed. The applications are processed at the end of the month too, so you may not hear back from them for a while. Patience is extremely important!

      You’ll need the basic documents: copy of passport, attestation de loyer, TAPIF contract stating how much you earn each month, etc., and your landlord will need to fill out a form as well.

    1. SFR- 70€ for the clé/box and then for 25€ per month sans engagement you get 6gb of internet per month! Make sure you have a bank account, your RIB, passport, and something with you address on it when you go 🙂 good luck!

  7. This is incredibly helpful to me, I’ll be in Lyon in January for school! But please tell me, what did you do about the guarantor situation? I have no contacts over there as of now!

    1. Yay! I’m glad I could help! 🙂

      I would have your parents write a letter (or rather you write it in French and they sign) stating that they’ll pay your rent assuming you can’t, just to be on the safe side- a lot of people don’t require the guarantor 🙂

      I might have to come visit you in Lyon… 🙂

      1. The letter is an excellent idea, didn’t think of that! And of course you are welcome to visit, seriously though 🙂

        I am only hesitant about a host family stay because I’m using to apartment living, cooking for myself, looking after only my needs I suppose! I’m worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope with family activities and being a good host daughter ha. I haven’t been at my own family’s home for more than a few weeks at a time for the past couple of years! That’s my only qualm, I guess.

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